The Broadbent Blog


Disclaimer: the opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Institute.

Voting for something


Editor’s note: Debate on electoral reform loomed large at Progress Summit 2016. Broadbent Institute founder Ed Broadbent told delegates at Canada’s largest annual progressive policy conference that the fight for proportional representation is a fight that progressives can - and must - win.

And Postmedia News columnist Andrew Coyne and Alex Himelfarb, former clerk of the Privy Council, representing the Yes side in the Great Debate: Be it Resolved that Canada Needs Proportional Representation, argued persuasively about how the current winner-take-all system is broken and PR is the only solution to remedy the problems of first-post-the-post.

Below, Broadbent Institute Leadership Fellow Jennifer Hollett shares her perspective.

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Stephen Harper's Unintended Social Policy Legacy


The new Canada Child Benefit (CCB) unveiled in the 2016 federal Budget has been widely supported by progressives and anti poverty activists who have long favoured the expansion of income tested child tax credits. By contrast to the so called middle-class tax cut which favours the more affluent, the CCB will have a positive impact upon the lamentably high rate of child poverty in Canada (which stood at 16.5% in 2013), and will promote greater income equality among families with children.

Somewhat ironically, the new program is an unintended consequence of the regressive policies of the Harper government which opened up the needed fiscal room for progressive change. 

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Remarks delivered by Ed Broadbent at Progress Summit 2016


Below is an excerpt of speech delivered by Ed Broadbent at Progress Summit 2016.

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Federal Budget 2016: A One Time Fix?


The Budget reinvests significantly and appropriately in many important government programs broadly in line with the promises made in the Liberal platform. However, it falls short in some important areas, and the biggest failure is to restore federal fiscal capacity to support improved social programs and public services over the long term.

The bottom line is that the Budget increases federal government program spending from 13.6% of GDP in 2015-16, the last year of the Conservative government, to 14.6% of GDP in each of the next two fiscal years. This represents a significant increase in spending of about $20 Billion in the coming year, 2016-17. Program spending is, however, forecast to gradually decline as a share of GDP back to the 2015-16 level after the next two years.

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Ed Broadbent: Intellectual, Communicator, Social Democrat




I’m remembering an evening in Spring 1968 (I hope I have the right date), when I was together with Ed Broadbent at an academic meeting in Toronto.

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Why we need a practical approach in the basic-income debate



The idea of a basic income guarantee for all Canadians has again moved to the front burner with the House of Commons Finance Committee and the Ontario government supporting further study and experimentation. This could be an important step forward, but incremental reform towards an income tested guarantee for working age Canadians delivered through the tax system will be the best path forward as opposed to more visionary “big bang” solutions.

The concept of a basic income has won support from both the political right and left. For the former, it promises to simplify complex income security programs and to replace most if not all welfare state programs with a single cash payment which would allow individuals to meet their needs in the market. For the latter, it is a means to free people from dependence upon the job market, a tool for social solidarity amidst a rapidly changing world of work, and a means to abolish poverty.

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Broadening the electoral reform discussion


The Liberal government campaigned on electoral reform, promising “that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system” and that they “will make every vote count.” 

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Ed Broadbent: A social democratic life



I first discovered Ed Broadbent’s career while an undergraduate.

As a young student and activist I was instinctively left wing, but hardly well-informed. Like many young political minds I felt a profound, if unspecified, discontent with things and desperately longed for a language to express that discontent.

Then I discovered social democracy.

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Progressives and the Guaranteed Income Debate


Seldom does a social policy idea make headlines for weeks. 

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Large Inheritances, Wealth Inequality, and Real Equality of Opportunity


Thomas Piketty argues in his recent bestseller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, that capitalism has a natural tendency towards ever increasing concentration of wealth, and that inheritances play a major role in perpetuating and increasing inequality. While wealth inequality is much lower than in the late Victorian “Gilded Age”, we are headed in the wrong direction.

Socialists have long argued that the highly unequal ownership of wealth reflects the power of the rich  in the market and in politics, and that governments should seek to equalize wealth through taxation and other means in order to promote social justice and greater equality.

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